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Health Care For Iraq Veterans Could Be More Than $650B

Armen Hareyan's picture

Health care for veterans returning from the Iraq war could cost theU.S. as much as $650 billion, eventually exceeding the cost of combatoperations, according to a study by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Boston Globe reports. The study, titled "Shock and Awe Hits Home," was led by Evan Kanter, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the University of Washington and a staff physician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Researchersestimated future costs by extrapolating data on the present costs fortreating military personnel with severe health problems such as blastinjuries from improvised explosive devices; the high rate of traumaticbrain injuries; and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, whichaffects about one-third of troops who have served in Iraq, according toVA estimates. The group's analysis of the data assumed that at thecurrent rate of deployment, up to two million U.S. military personnelwill serve in Iraq through the end of the combat operations.Researchers also examined veterans' disability payment data, the Globe reports.

Presently,a veteran who is 100% disabled and does not have a spouse or dependentsreceives a monthly federal payment of about $2,400, which over 50 yearswould exceed $1.4 million. The study did not take into account data forthe civilian contractors who serve in Iraq, including more than 1,000personnel who already have filed for disability compensation with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The results of the study come as new data released on Thursday by the Department of Defenseshow that thousands of National Guard and Reserve personnel have losttheir jobs, health insurance, pensions and other benefits afterreturning from the war, despite government regulations that preventthem from being penalized (Bender, Boston Globe, 11/9).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.